Sports Sportsin partnership with NESN your connection to The Boston Globe

Character development

With his wife expecting twins, Millar's having more fun than ever

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- In the quiet moments, at his new home in Beaumont, Texas, in his black, four-door Chevy 1500 truck, or atop one of his Harleys, Kevin Millar finds himself talking out loud.

"Now bat-ting,'' Millar will announce with impeccable diction, "Kash-ten Mi-llar.''

Kashten Millar, who still might wind up being Kanyon Millar, is due May 10, as is his twin sister, who will be Kyla or Kambrie.

Can you believe that Rally Karaoke Guy is going to cowboy up and become a father?

"Can you believe I'm going to be a grandma of twins?'' asks Millar's mother, Judy. "No, I can't believe it. He's going to be the best daddy in the whole world. Kids gravitate to him. David Ortiz's little kid. Manny [Ramirez's] kids. They adore Kevin. And Jeana is going to be a wonderful mom.''

Kevin and his wife, Jeana, have wanted a child since late in Millar's days with the Florida Marlins. But they never could bridge the gap between that desire and deliverance. In late 2003, they turned to in vitro fertilization. But, 14 weeks along, in mid-April, two weeks into the last baseball season, season, Jeana miscarried.

"It was tough," Millar said last week. "It was tough because I knew how much she's been trying and wanting it. It was a tough time for a couple days, but I kind of kept that on the down low and kept going."

He kept going, but he hit .218 that month and never really flipped the switch until late July. As of July 20, he'd hit just five home runs with 25 RBIs.

"It was devastating because of the in vitro," acknowledged Judy Millar. "That makes this pregnancy that much more exciting. It really bothered him a lot. It was a really hard time. I don't even like to talk about it. It was very taxing on both of them."

Millar never revealed any of this to a fan base that turned on him for the first three months of 2004. In fact, he didn't even reveal this to all of the Sox, said teammate Bill Mueller.

"I think sometimes, in where we're at, and how many of us there are, things are kept to themselves," Mueller said.

Millar talks now because, where there was once devastation and disappointment, there is promise of great joy. He even finds time to laugh a bit about the current pregnancy.

His favorite story? The visit to Brigham and Women's Hospital to see an Italian doctor named Antonio Gargiulo of the hospital's Center for Reproductive Medicine. Gargiulo recommended fertilizing three eggs.

"I said, `Doctor, if three eggs take, I'm moving to Italy with you,' " Millar said. "I was a little nervous about having triplets. He said, `No, no, it's a 10 percent chance, but it increases the chance to get pregnant.'

"Well, then two took."

Though Jeana is due May 10, the plan, as of now, is to induce a month early. The target date is April 10, the day before the home opener against the Yankees.

The trouble, especially early in the season, Millar realizes, will be sleep.

"But Mark Bellhorn lives right above me," said Millar, who lives downtown during the season. "So I'm going to go up there and sleep with Bellhorn. He's perfect. The wife might be going nuts, but I'll say, `Babe, I've got to face Randy Johnson tomorrow.' "

Restless moments
Millar was home just a few weeks after the World Series. The family was gathered for Thanksgiving when the phone rang. Millar, like Doug Mientkiewicz, had stated he wanted to play full time, forcing the Sox to begin shopping one of the two.

His agent had this question: In case you are traded, where would you prefer to go?

"You sit there and go, 'Huh? Where do I want to go?' " Millar said. "I'm from California. I grew up in Los Angeles. Dodgers? Padres? The Giants?' I'm sitting here going, `There's not a team in this world that I could tell you I want to go to that could bring a smile to my face.

"Not the Houston Astros, not the Rangers, where I live now. I don't want to go anywhere. I want this not to happen. I feel that I've played in Boston my whole career. I was petrified."

Said Judy Millar: "When he said, `I'd rather stay with Boston,' that's when I knew this guy is a diehard, not even to want to come home. He was scared."

In the end, Mientkiewicz was shipped to New York. The reality, though, is that each day of this spring training and season is a countdown to October, when Millar's contract expires. At that time, general manager Theo Epstein might opt for someone younger, someone with a better mitt, someone else.

But can you envision that jungly facial hair and frosty mop in pinstripes or Kansas City Royals blue or anything else? Millar can't. He will never acquiesce to the status quo, and no team in baseball, it seems, allows him to comfortably eschew convention like the Sox.

"I'm not on every team," he said. "Realistically, guys have got to sit over there and say, `You know what, those guys have fun.' I don't care who you are. I don't care whether you like us or dislike us. We play the game hard, and we have fun.

"Boston is not an easy city to play in. But we eliminate that and have fun."

Truth be told, Millar does a lot of that elimination work himself. While his antics might sometimes shout, `Hi, look at me,' there is an undeniable degree of altruism to what he does.

The way Millar sees it, he doesn't have Alex Rodriguez's Inspector Gadget tools, Gabe Kapler's slingshot right arm, or Dave Roberts's pistons. What he has is the ability to help turn a band of cowboys and idiots into a symphony.

"I'm not blessed with any ability that is outside of the norm," he said. "All the tools they talk about, like I always say, I don't have a toolbox, but I do love this game more than anybody.

"Manny can hit the ball anywhere he wants. My tool? I love my teammates. I love my clubhouse. I love just hanging out, and soaking all of this in, because it's such a short career.

"This is a dream. You have to be thankful and appreciate this. And I don't think enough guys do. You're in this little fantasy world. Any chance you get, you've got to have fun, and I think that's what I do. How can you have a bad day in the major leagues? Seriously, how can guys come in miserable and angry?"

Talking points
To some, however, Millar is too much to take. Usually, this criticism is raised when he's not hitting or the team is not winning, as was the case early last summer. Maybe you remember Paul Costine, better known as "Angry Bill," ranting about Millar last summer on NESN. He called Millar "Live Shot Millar" and recommended the first baseman do everyone a favor and "Sushi up," a reference to Millar's near exodus to Japan for the 2003 season.

"Is that what he said?" Millar asked recently. "Funny, people say that about me with a TV camera or an interview. I do half the stuff for the team. Pedro's not talking to the media. Manny's not talking to the media when I got here in 2003. Nomar [Garciaparra] was one day a week. OK, there's your three superstars. Who had to suffer?

"Todd Walker, myself, Trot Nixon, Johnny Damon. So I'm doing this for the team to take that off of them. Curt Schilling takes a lot of heat off of a guy like Tim Wakefield or whoever doesn't want to talk, maybe Matt Clement. It's a double-edged sword. You're always in the camera. Believe me, if it was my choice, I would like to come off the field, drop off my stuff, get a shower, but I'm doing it because I know Manny, Pedro, and Nomar aren't doing it. So, who's going to talk for the team?"

Early in spring training, Millar sat with a local TV station, preparing for an interview.

"Don't worry, Theo," he shouted to Epstein. "I won't say anything."

Millar turned to the TV camera, and said, "What's up, A-Rod?"

That was a reference to recent name-calling between Rodriguez and the Sox, and to December 2003, when Millar was asked by Dan Patrick on ESPN if he'd rather have Rodriguez, or Garciaparra and Ramirez as teammates.

"I'm taking Alex Rodriguez, Schilling, and [Keith] Foulke," Millar said at the time.

On at least two occasions, the Sox front office has told Millar to use his head before he opens his mouth. Epstein wouldn't confirm when, but it's believed that Millar was pulled aside last season when he complained about not playing in Detroit, and when he made the Jack Daniel's revelation.

"It seems like I've put my foot in my mouth, in [Theo's] mind, with the Alex Rodriguez thing last year when Dan Patrick asked me who I wanted, who I thought was going to be playing short," Millar said. "Ninety-five percent of the world thought the same thing, but I said it."

Epstein's feeling?

"Kevin occasionally puts his foot in his mouth, as we all do," Epstein said. "But, for the most part, he does a great job keeping the clubhouse loose and keeping the media away from other guys who may not be as comfortable with the attention."

Millar said he respects Epstein's take. But, just as much, he respects himself for saying what he thinks, not what others think he should.

"They're never going to change me," he said. "I don't like players that just do interviews and say the right things. The black and white. It's too easy. That's not what it's about. When you do an interview with me, you're going to get what it's about. And most of the stuff I say is what people are thinking. And then I get critiqued."

Baseball lifer
Why is Millar what he is?

"Both sides of the family were crazy people," Judy Millar explained. "Kevin's dad is hysterical. My mom was really goofy. She was a nut. Always making jokes about Kevin's friends. We just have a good time, with good personalities."

Millar was an only child, blessed with the constant attention of two doting parents, though they divorced when he was 3, Millar said. His father helped a young Millar hit by buying a pitching machine and installing 100-foot mercury vapor lights in the backyard. His mother, a former third baseman in softball, played catch with Millar endlessly. He played the position she had until the Marlins moved him to first base.

His mother still dotes. She drives a black BMW 750 with a V12 engine, tinted windows, and a license plate that reads: MOM, followed by a heart symbol, followed by Millar's uniform number, 15.

"I can't believe he talked me into getting this," she said. "It looks like a guy's car."

They were on the phone last week when one of them mentioned a make of candy sold only in California.

"He goes, `Momma, please send it overnight. That sounds so good,' " Judy said.

She complied. The box of chocolates cost $12, the shipping $40. The chocolates arrived in the mail Tuesday, packaged with a Playboy magazine, and a note, saying he'd have something to read while eating his chocolate.

The chocolate might not help that 6-foot, 220-pound frame. Millar showed up a little bulkier this spring, with some good weight, some not so good.

"I feel stronger," he said. "I worked hard on strength. I didn't do a lot of cardio because it'd take me four hours of cardio and sprint work to improve my speed and quickness about a half a centimeter. It's not worth the work for what position I play. My position is to drive in runs and hit."

He drove in 74 runs last season, 49 of those from July 21 on. He hit .297 for the season, despite that .218-mark April. His true contributions came down the stretch: .373 with 17 RBIs in July, .286 with 17 RBIs in August, and .308 with 19 RBIs in September/October.

His most important at-bat, though, didn't even register as an at-bat. It was the walk to lead off the ninth inning of Game 4 of the American League Championship Series. Dave Roberts pinch ran, and the rest is history.

The World Series championship convinced Beaumont, Millar's adopted hometown, to host Kevin Millar Day Dec. 7. Lamar University in Beaumont retired his number.

"All of a sudden," he said, he was good enough to have his jersey retired. "Thank God that Pedro and Manny Ramirez and Schilling and Ortiz were on my team; that made me a good player."

That day made him realize that he's no longer a kid. He's 33. But, as baseball's chief optimist, someone who went undrafted five times, then parlayed an above-average bat and a witty persona into a major league career, Millar is unwilling to acknowledge that he's anywhere close to the end.

"I can't ever see him retiring," Judy Millar said. "He doesn't even want to talk about it. I'll say, `What do you think, another . . .' You don't even discuss it. You will see Kevin Millar in his 40s, playing somewhere."

Be sure, however, that when that day comes, there will be other avenues for Millar. According to Judy, when he left a taping of "Best Damn Sports Show Period" in early January, "they said to him, `Boy, when you're through with baseball, you've got a job here.' "

He will stay in, or around baseball.

"If I have to hit fungos somewhere," Millar said, "I'll hit fungos."

For now, he'll put off being Johnny Pesky and keep on being Kevin Millar.

"All I want to do is enjoy this year," he said. "All I can hope is that Theo and the Red Sox keep me. I would definitely want to play here the rest of my life, as long as they want me. Can it possibly be [my last year here]? Yeah, of course. If somebody wants some different first baseman, then yeah, I'm gone.

"I'm going to do everything in my power to stay here."

Next to playing for free?

"If that's what it consists of, that doesn't bother me," said Millar, who began the trek to pro baseball making $600 a month with the St. Paul Saints in the Northern League in 1993. "The money, the league minimum is a lot of money to me. To have to leave because of a financial situation, no. That's not what it's about."

"To me," he said of his $3.5 million contract, "I've got Manny money."

red sox extras
Today (free)
Yesterday (free)
Past 30 days
Last 12 months
 Advanced search / Historic Archives